China’s New Vassal
How the War in Ukraine Turned Moscow Into Beijing’s Junior Partner
The recent journey of Nikita Khrushchev to the United Arab Republic, and the more extensive travels of Chou En-lai to Asian and African countries, have pointed up the new context of an old dilemma of Soviet and, more generally, of Communist policy. Should Communists-in-power give vigorous political, economic and strategic backing to non-Communist and nationalist régimes in order to strengthen them and thus weaken the "imperialist bloc?" Or will this strategy lead, through the development of effective non- Communist régimes, to blocking the spread of Communism? Or would it be more profitable in the long run for Moscow and Peking to direct their support only to avowed or potential supporters of Communist doctrine and revolutions?
The Western philosophy of aid to newly independent countries rests on the assumption that nationalist régimes, preferably with a strong emphasis on economic and cultural development, offer to "new" or "old-new" nations the best and probably the only workable alternative to Communism. And this assumption has recently received unexpected support from the Chinese Communist leadership in its polemics with Moscow, even though its day-to- day practice is not very different from the Soviet one.
From the beginning of Soviet rule in Russia the question of the proper posture toward developing countries called for an urgent answer. Faced by the same dilemma as Khrushchev confronts today, Lenin gave different answers in different situations, but from 1921 he opted for a cautious policy of support for nationalist but non-Communist régimes. In the "semi- colonial" (an adjective now discarded in favor of "developing") countries it was essential, he maintained, to strengthen the forces of national independence even though, according to Marxist terminology, they were working for "bourgeois" revolutions. This policy, Lenin asserted, would help undermine the economic foundations of imperialism through depriving the metropoles of markets and investments, and would speed the progress of awakening countries from "feudalism" into and through the stage of "bourgeois-democratic" revolution.
Lenin's decision, however distasteful to his revolutionary hopes, to strengthen Kemalist Turkey even while it was crushing the embryonic Communist Party of Turkey, was a realistic one. Soviet Russia was too weak and poor to offer an attractive model of development, and the security of the Soviet state called for strengthening nationalist régimes in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan as buffers against a revival of British control or influence.
A similar dilemma has confronted Moscow since the Nineteenth Party Congress of October 1952, which foreshadowed the opening of a new political offensive in developing countries. At that Congress Stalin's spokesmen abandoned the post-1945 dogma which divided the world into two "camps," and pictured a tripartite division: the "imperialists," the Communist bloc of "peace and socialism," and a third grouping of developing and largely uncommitted countries. The future shape of the world would, they insisted, be settled when the Communist bloc had succeeded in winning the third of these groupings to its side and in isolating the "imperialists." The same tripartite concept governs Soviet-and Chinese Communist-strategy today, even though they clash sharply over methods and tactics.
In seeking to enhance its influence in the underdeveloped continents, the Soviet Union of today has a vast range of advantages over the Russia of Lenin's time, as well as over Communist China. It has been putting those advantages to use with growing boldness and flexibility, though not without some hesitations and setbacks. Its policy has encountered a new and unforeseen set of complications in the rival challenge raised by Peking, which is straining every fiber to expel both Western and Soviet influences from the shaping of the "third world" and to establish its eventual primacy there.
One of the main issues between Moscow and Peking is the quarrel about the nature of the transition from national-democratic revolutions, usually equipped with programs of social and economic reform, into "socialist," or Communist-type, régimes. Between the cautious turn to a more active policy at the Nineteenth Party Congress, and the nuclear confrontation of October 1962, Soviet ideologists had elaborated a new concept, which has been useful to them in explaining and justifying their more flexible approach.
They did this by inserting into the Marxist-Leninist schema a new category, that of "national democracy," to bridge the gap in Communist theory between the earlier stage of bourgeois-nationalist revolution and the more distant one of building socialism. In this transitional stage, which may be relatively brief or prolonged under differing circumstances, the "national democracies" are expected to cut themselves loose step by step from the imperialist system and move steadily closer to the socialist camp. Thus the policies of a "national democracy" are supposed, perhaps without any dramatic conflicts or shocks, to take on more and more of a socialist content, until one fine day its citizens would discover that they had already entered the more advanced stage of "building the foundations of socialism."
The steps recommended by Moscow include all or most of the following: nationalization of all foreign-owned enterprises, to be followed eventually by the expropriation of all local manifestations of capitalism; rejection of "imperialist" aid and reliance on Moscow's "disinterested" assistance; agrarian reform, followed eventually by the creation of large-scale state- run farms to replace peasant ownership; elimination of "imperialist lackeys" from political leadership, and the creation of one-party systems, within which organized Communist parties would, however, remain free to press for their own policies and to seek power.
Moscow's first candidates for the title of "national democracies" were Castro's Cuba and Lumumba's Congo, but each in different ways failed to fit into the ready-made category contrived for it. For many months Moscow's pronouncements seemed to be urging Fidel Castro to be satisfied with the rank of leader of a national democracy. However, Castro refused very early to settle down in this halfway house. He insisted, months ahead of Moscow's express approval, that his régime was already engaged in building socialism and should therefore be granted the status due to a member of the socialist camp.
Quite apart from the dangerous crisis of October 1962, with its unfavorable repercussions on his hopes and prestige, Castro has not found it easy to steer an even course between Peking and Moscow. The Fidelist model for revolutions in Latin America is in closer harmony with Peking's militant formula of "uninterrupted revolution" than with Moscow's gradualist prescriptions, such as those issued to Communists in Chile, Brazil, Peru and elsewhere in Latin America. Yet the survival of the Castro régime requires powerful strategic and economic support from the Soviet Union and its East European allies.
Neither Havana nor Peking could have been happy over Pravda's featuring (July 17, 1964) the decision of the Venezuelan "Revolutionary Movement of the Left," as announced by its General Secretary, Americo Chacón, to shift toward the Moscow line. "The party . . .," he declared, "condemns the dogmatism of the leaders of the Communist Party of China . . ." and has decided ". . . to correct the mistakes that have been committed under the influence of the dogmatists." Whether or not this change of line would stick, its public adoption exposed some of the strains that have arisen between Havana and Moscow, as well as between Peking and Moscow. Perhaps Castro's offer, in late July, to cease his support for armed insurrections in Latin America, in return for concessions by the United States, was a last-minute effort to claim credit for a Moscow-imposed change of Havana's line.
In the Congo of 1960 the first round of national democracy, under Patrice Lumumba, brought fewer risks than in Cuba, but far greater disappointments to Moscow, as evidenced in Khrushchev's shoe-pounding in the United Nations General Assembly. Still, nothing seems very predictable in Congolese affairs, and in the new round of turbulence in 1964 the Chinese Communist formula of incessant attack has made great headway against both Western hopes and Soviet ambitions. Some Soviet policymakers may yet regret the failure, to which they contributed a good deal, of the U.N. action to provide an orderly transition of the Congo to unity and effective self- government.
Moscow's favored concept and practice of national democracy has been bitterly attacked by Peking. Moscow, Mao's spokesmen say, has allied itself with "anti-popular" (i.e. anti-Communist) rulers. It sits by while they execute "honest revolutionaries," simply for the sake of currying favor with actively or potentially anti-Communist régimes. In a somewhat more realistic vein, Peking argues that, if nationalist-reformist régimes succeed in their aims of national development, they will thereby bar the path to Communist rule, perhaps for a long time to come.
Ever since Lenin's day, Communist theory and Communist analyses of successful and unsuccessful revolutions have placed special emphasis on identifying the "weakest link" in the "chain" of imperialism and on deciding with what groups and forces Communists should seek alliances, pending the day when they become strong enough to seize and hold a monopoly of power. To Moscow it is now clear, after some hesitations, that Soviet support can profitably be given to nationalist régimes, provided this strengthens them against Western Europe and the United States, and provided it also brings these régimes into closer alignment with major Soviet policies. Peking, on the other hand, maintains that conditions are fast ripening for Communist seizure of power in a good many of the developing countries, which can thereby move rapidly into the stage of building socialism and into close coöperation with the Peking center of militant revolution, the lawful heir of Marxism-Leninism. On the contrary, to strengthen the bourgeois régimes of today in such countries, Peking insists, can only confuse, weaken and even destroy the forces of genuine or socialist revolution.
The differences between Moscow and Peking are, of course, overstated by the polemicists, as they strive to score Marxist-Leninist points off their rivals. If anything, Khrushchev has spoken out more sharply than Chou En- lai against the real or alleged persecution of Communists by several of the governments to which the Soviet Union has been rendering large-scale aid. Published accounts of Chou's visit to the United Arab Republic, for example, contain no references to any protests against the treatment of local Communist groups, perhaps because the Egyptian Communists, disregarding the militant Peking line, have constantly been offering their "loyal" coöperation to Nasser, as the Communists in Algeria have promised theirs to Ben Bella.
In his speeches in Egypt and Moscow, Khrushchev stepped close to, or even beyond, the limits of what is permitted in relations between independent states:
There was a time [he said] when Communists were arrested and imprisoned for their activities. The leaders of the United Arab Republic told us that this is no longer the case. It must be assumed that the persecution of Communists is a thing of the past. . . . It is necessary to realize that there are no more steadfast fighters for progress and socialism than the Communists.
Just what role will be permitted to avowed Communists within Nasser's newly created single party, the Arab Socialist Union, will presumably be determined by the degree of ideological and political discipline that the new party can achieve and by its success or failure in forestalling Communist boring from within.
How many varieties of non-Communist "socialism" can the Kremlin approve or even tolerate without undermining the unity of Communist action? This issue will certainly take up a good deal of time in the meetings of Communist parties, which the Soviet party has set for December 15, 1964, in preparation for calling a world congress of parties in 1965. The problem of whether or not to approve various doctrines of non-Communist socialism outside the Soviet bloc has important implications for Moscow's ability to manage the increasingly divergent trends within the bloc.
Khrushchev has renounced the practices of the "bad old days," when Stalin freely changed the programs and tactics of foreign parties and appointed and dismissed their leaders more or less at will. Since 1957 Moscow has explicitly renounced this powerful prerogative, perhaps more from necessity than from conviction. It has tolerated marked deviations of the Jugoslav and Polish parties, and it has shown itself unmistakably eager to contain the ideological wanderings of the Rumanian party within the fold of Communist unity.
This dramatic change has, however, not resolved the underlying dilemma. Moscow says that each party must henceforth choose its own leadership and define its program. At the same time it insists that the Soviet party has the greatest power and experience, and therefore the greatest responsibility, and therefore all parties should work in basic harmony with its policies. In his tortuous dealings with Communist parties abroad, as in some aspects of his domestic reforms, Khrushchev is pursuing the mirage of "voluntary unanimity." In contrast, Peking shows no doubt of its own right to be the sole judge of Communist orthodoxy and aims to become the single center of decision for all Communist parties. In this respect, at least, Mao Tse-tung does claim all of Stalin's mantle!
Outside the realm of Communist writ, Soviet doctrine has likewise wavered a good deal on the acceptability of Arab, African and other non-Communist varieties of socialism. In the first stage of its new policy, between 1955 and 1960, at a time when the Soviet Government was actively seeking access to, and good will among, the developing countries, Soviet ideologists were still keeping up a drumfire of warnings against various forms of "petty- bourgeois" and "utopian" socialism, while holding aloft the banner of "scientific socialism."
Then, between 1960 and 1962 a substantial swing took place. Increasingly, Soviet analysts stressed the partial merits of "Arab" and similar socialisms. Though far from the "perfection" of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine, nevertheless these "anti-capitalist" programs marked a break with the imperialists and a step toward rejecting the bourgeois path of development-a shift away from the colonialist bloc and toward alignment with the Communist states. The petty-bourgeois trends of these platforms would, they predicted, be replaced gradually, under the pressure of national needs and changes in the balance of world power, by a more and more Marxist-Leninist content. Under the pressure of their peoples' unsatisfied needs, the new leaders would learn to "think in Marxist- Leninist style" even without themselves being aware of the change.
Since late 1963 Soviet comments on national democracy have reflected a less sanguine mood. In his speeches in Egypt and on his return to Moscow, Khrushchev's statements showed a more somber emphasis on the inevitability of sharp struggle and class warfare, rather than relying on a smooth, almost automatic progress through the stage of national democracy. To his hosts' discomfiture, Khrushchev laid renewed stress on the two-stage concept of revolution. The first stage, which had begun in Egypt in 1952, had, he said, been carried out with the participation of "all national forces," including "the representatives of national capital and part of the feudal landowners, who were not opposed to driving out the British invaders and to the overthrow of the venal royal régime." Since then, Khrushchev went on to explain in the tone of a patient schoolmaster addressing his rather backward pupils, Egypt has entered "the second stage of the development of the revolution, when the nationalization of major industrial and commercial enterprises and banks has begun . . ., when agrarian reforms and other social measures are being implemented. . . ." President Nasser may have been surprised to learn that nationalization and agrarian reform had only "begun" at this late stage.
Khrushchev then came to his main point: The second stage of the revolution ". . . is characterized by the inevitable clash of the interests of the toilers and the interests of the exploiters. . . ." In addition, Khrushchev made repeated attacks on the concept of Arab unity. To Khrushchev's most outspoken attack, delivered at the site of the Aswan Dam, against the goal of Arab unity and in favor of an alliance of "workers, peasants, intelligentsia" against "exploiters," Nasser made a conciliatory parry, stressing that "freedom, socialism, unity" were the goals sought.
It is not clear how far Nasser was impressed by Khrushchev's appeals for a more militant policy against "exploiters," domestic and foreign, and just what practical lessons he may draw from this massive dose of Marxist- Leninist exhortation. Traditional Arab courtesy toward an honored guest would explain his reserve. In any event, perhaps with one eye to his exposed Chinese flank, Khrushchev firmly avoided issuing a seal of purity to Arab socialism. In his Moscow report of May 27, he referred with precise wording to "the fact that the United Arab Republic has proclaimed that it is entering upon the path of socialist development" (without himself endorsing that assertion) , and added that this fact is, "of course, a joy to us Soviet people."
In another striking thought, which he expressed at Aswan and Moscow, Khrushchev drew a clear line between two groups of recipients of Soviet aid. "It has been correctly said here that the Soviet Union renders assistance without any political conditions. But I shall say frankly that we take great satisfaction in rendering aid to countries that are embarking on the path of socialist construction." This vigorous nudge was a reminder to Nasser's régime not only to proclaim socialism as its goal, but to accept the Soviet dictum that ". . . the only correct path for the toiling people is the path of socialist construction."
The Kremlin's greater caution in giving even a rhetorical approval to non- Soviet varieties of socialism may be due to a number of factors. In recent months Moscow has been perturbed by the insistence of the Rumanian party leaders on pursuing the specific interests of their own régime, at the expense of the Soviet hope of promoting closer coöperation and division of labor within the COMECON grouping. The wholehearted rehabilitation of Tito's party, in defiance of Peking's anathema, has led, for the first time since the Moscow-Belgrade reconciliation of 1955, to a marked expansion in Jugoslav influence within other Communist régimes in East Central Europe, and even to some heartburnings over Jugoslavia's advantageous situation as a country that is both Communist and non-aligned.
Because Jugoslavia survived Stalin's attacks, because Tito has been repeatedly wooed by the Kremlin, because it is an influential member of the loose grouping of non-aligned countries, Jugoslavia's influence in world affairs is much greater than its intrinsic strength. Her position suggests to other countries, within and without the Soviet bloc, the advantages of avoiding too much dependence on any one major power. In its broad emphasis on anti-imperialism, national liberation and economic development, Jugoslavia's policies are, of course, Communist in concept. Yet in the day- to-day give-and-take of international politics Jugoslavia also illustrates the virtues of "active non-alignment," of rejecting military blocs, and retaining a genuine freedom of initiative.
In its efforts to win over non-aligned countries, the Kremlin uses various forms of political flattery. The title "Comrade" was, for example, bestowed rather ostentatiously on President Ben Bella in the course of his triumphal journey through the Soviet Union. This term is, of course, applied also to Socialists, but only on occasions when they arouse "comradely" feelings or hopes in the Kremlin leaders. In reporting Ben Bella's meetings with Khrushchev in Egypt, be it noted, the Soviet press dropped this title, presumably to avoid drawing a distinction between his position and Nasser's in the Soviet roll of honor.
A more unusual gesture has been made in the past two years or so toward several one-party but non-Communist states-Ghana, Guinea, Mali. All three ruling parties have been represented, along with numerous Communist parties, at congresses and conferences of the Soviet Communist Party. While all three governments have embraced Soviet aid and have supported certain Soviet positions, it would still seem premature for Moscow to bestow on them honorary membership in the Soviet bloc.
Outwardly clearcut, Peking's attitude toward the very diverse members of the "third world" in fact presents many contradictions. Mao's spokesmen accuse Moscow of allying itself with the "national bourgeoisie" against the true bearers of proletarian revolution. Yet it was Mao who coined the "four classes" definition of the revolutionary front, in which he included "national" capitalists, in contrast to the "compradore" bourgeoisie, which he rejected as agents of foreign imperialism. Perhaps Mao resents Moscow's skill in stealing a page out of his own revolutionary manual! Similarly, it was Mao who popularized the vivid formula, "Fight, talk, fight, talk, fight!" which is a parallel to Lenin's "One step back, two steps forward!" But now Mao calls for "uninterrupted revolution," for unrelenting pressure against the "imperialists," while Khrushchev has borrowed the Chinese tactic of alternating attack with negotiation.
Chou En-lai's visits to important governments of non-aligned countries had a different flavor from Khrushchev's. Chou emphasized the common interest in opposing the "colonialists," but published reports gave no hint of the free-swinging Party-style advice with which Khrushchev was so lavish during his stay in Egypt. Thus Chou's speeches left the impression of a rigidly "correct" or state-to-state approach, based, in accordance with traditional Communist doctrine, on defining a temporary parallelism of interests, not on any hope for the early change of national democracies to the stage of "building socialism."
Chou was also pursuing, of course, an immediate goal-that of excluding the Soviet Union from the forthcoming Second Congress of Asian and African Countries. At the preparatory meeting in Djakarta, Chen Yi, Peking's Minister of Foreign Affairs, insisted that the Soviet Union was not an Asian power and therefore could not be invited. In a strong rebuttal of May 5, the Kremlin rejected this line of argument and once again accused the Chinese Communist Party of stirring up racialist emotions in order to seize the banner role in the struggle for "national liberation."
Peking aims, of course, to be the only great power within an Afro-Asian grouping. Moscow's absence from the first Bandung Conference, together with the fears that have been aroused in Asia by Peking's militant posture, may well lead to a Soviet defeat on this issue, to which it has committed a great deal of prestige. To avert this, if possible, Moscow has been exerting pressure on India, Ceylon, Burma and Indonesia, and in Egypt Khrushchev pressed Nasser openly to back the Soviet claim.
One of the main issues between Moscow and Peking has been the argument over the nature of peaceful coexistence and the role of force. Peking accuses Moscow of fearing and rejecting not only nuclear war but also wars of liberation. It does so in order to press its own claim to sole leadership of Communism. In response the Soviet leadership has constantly stressed its dual approach: caution toward nuclear war, strong support for wars of national liberation. The traditional distinction was reaffirmed by Khrushchev in a speech of July 9:
. . . When I say we are against war, I have in mind aggressive, predatory wars. But there are other wars, wars of national liberation, when oppressed peoples rise in struggle against their oppressors, the colonialists and imperialists. We consider such wars just and sacred. We support the peoples who take up arms in defense of their independence and freedom. And we support them not only in words but with concrete deeds.
Thus, between Moscow and Peking there is at bottom no real difference in basic doctrine, but mainly a disagreement over the uses to which Communist power should be put. Each remains committed to promote the "national liberation" of oppressed peoples. Each remains free to choose the time, occasion and extent of that assistance, in accordance with its own appraisal of interests and risks.
The Soviet leadership is groping with a many-faceted dilemma in its commitment to capture the aspirations and hopes of the developing countries. Massive programs of economic aid, military support and political backing have brought gains in some countries, none of them so far decisive, as well as some rebuffs and setbacks. Major beneficiaries of Soviet aid, such as the United Arab Republic, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Algeria, pursue their own paths of reform and seek to strengthen a posture of non- alignment that sets them apart from both the West and the Soviet Union.
Figures on new Soviet aid commitments-not aid actually delivered-record a striking return since late 1963 to a more active policy. New commitments, which reached the equivalent of nearly $1 billion in 1959, dropped sharply in 1960, and were negligible in 1961, 1962 and the first half of 1963. These figures do not take account of the unpublished costs of the support Moscow has given Castro's Cuba since 1960, and it is possible that between early 1961 and mid-1963 the burden of Cuba's needs made the Soviet leaders reluctant to take on large new commitments elsewhere. In addition, since there is a long lag in Soviet aid programs, as in United States development programs, between promise and fulfillment, the Kremlin may well have preferred to complete some of its outstanding commitments before taking on any new ones, especially to the same recipients.
Since 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis, Soviet propaganda has placed less emphasis on its concept of national democracy as a convenient ideological and political bridge between its own goals and those of the developing countries. Instead, it has placed a renewed stress on the role of "struggle" in advancing to the stage of building socialism. It seems less optimistic about the prospect of making early and important political gains. Its policymakers appear more aware of the truly limited leverage provided by outside aid and even outside pressure.
At the very time when the Soviet perspective in the struggle to win over the developing countries to its side has been lengthened and complicated by more intimate contact with real life, the Kremlin has also had to face up to a sharpening challenge posed by Peking to its assumptions, its programs and its methods. At times the Soviet leaders seem almost as troubled and uncertain as Western ones about the course the tumultuous wave of national awakening may take. In this more complex world the ritualistic repetition of Marxist-Leninist formulas has not given the Kremlin any clear or new answer to this old dilemma.